Message from CCAFS Program Director

Photo: C. Schubert (CCAFS)

by Bruce Campbell, Director, CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security

Achieving sustainable food security while reducing rural poverty, improving health and nutrition and managing our natural resources in a sustainable way, will be a real challenge under a changing climate. CCAFS is helping to meet that challenge through outcome-focussed work on adaptation to long-term climate trends (e.g. rising temperatures, sea level rise); managing climate variability (e.g. increasing floods and droughts; greater uncertainty in weather, markets and prices); and by reducing the emissions footprint of agriculture.

Reaching millions of farmers

A key question is whether the information age can be extended to farmers in rural Africa and South Asia, compensating for limited agricultural extension by giving farmers the knowledge to be climate-smart? In Kenya, CCAFS partnered with 'Shamba Shape-Up', a weekly reality TV show on farm makeovers that reaches over three million viewers, the majority from rural areas. CCAFS helped bring the science into the makeovers – scaling out gender-sensitive climate-smart practices. In Senegal, participatory research revealed what kinds of weather forecasts farmers, both men and women, wanted and in what format. CCAFS then worked with an association of community-based radio stations to get these new kinds of forecasts to farmers, reaching an estimated two million of them. In Nepal, CCAFS teamed up with the Nepal Development Research Institute to develop one-minute radio jingles and Public Service Announcements to reach a million farmers with information on climate change adaptation. This work has demonstrated that innovative communication partnerships can indeed help reach deep into rural areas.

Getting results on the ground

CCAFS has worked with a multitude of partners to establish 15 Climate-Smart Villages (CSVs) in West Africa, East Africa and South Asia. These villages (or districts or landscapes) serve as a crucial testing ground for different adaptation strategies, technologies and practices. They do this through an empowering action research model. After a potential site is selected, a steering group of community representatives and researchers together identify appropriate climate-smart options for testing, and there is constant interaction between researchers and local people. This model of working has been taken up by partners, e.g. Practical Action will implement CSVs in three districts in Nepal.

In India, through working with the Agricultural Insurance Company of India, CCAFS has helped insure 50,000 farmers with a new insurance product released in 2013, and based on a weather index. The intention is to reach millions through this partnership. Elsewhere, in East Africa, CCAFS' partner centers ILRI and ICRAF gave input into the East Africa Dairy Development (EADD) program of Heifer International which in its first phase reached 179,000 farming families, increasing their earnings by a collective US$131 million. Heifer has now adopted climate-smart agriculture as a program objective amidst the mounting evidence that better feeding and manure management can contribute to both greenhouse gas reduction and improved income for farmers.

Enhancing capacity of farmers, local leaders and service agencies

Adaptation to climate change is about building capacity. Knowledge and the ability to use that knowledge are crucial. Capacity strengthening runs throughout CCAFS and at every level, from farmer to global negotiator. In 2013 CCAFS, in partnership with government agencies, helped to train nearly 8,500 local women leaders in climate-smart agriculture in Bihar (India) and Nepal, through a training of trainers program. In Colombia, 2,800 farmers were trained on a web-based diagnostic tool for farming decisions. In West Africa, over 600 farmers were trained in crop planning linked to weather forecasts. And in South Asia, CCAFS helped train over 600 farmers in precision nutrient management for wheat and maize, leading to yield gains of 0.5-1.5 t/ha.

We also need to work with the agencies that deliver services to farmers. One area of focus is on national meteorological services (NMS). As a result of research and capacity investment by CCAFS and partners, the NMS organisations in three countries now produce climate information at a scale that is relevant to rural communities, using methods, tools and results from CCAFS. There have also been changes in the policies and activities of at least four NMS organisations, based on an improved understanding of farmers’ perceptions and information needs, together with the design and implementation of methods for providing climate information services that better meet those needs. The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has endorsed the approach and is involved in further scaling up initiatives, while the major NGOs Oxfam, Farm Africa, Practical Action and World Vision have incorporated the approach into training materials and activities.

Creating conducive policies for resilience building

Creating an enabling environment will be vital if we are to achieve ambitious development goals. As a vital step towards achieving this, in 2013, CCAFS analysed the state of national climate change adaptation plans, policies and processes in 12 countries across West Africa, East Africa and South Asia. In 2013, Kenya released its National Adaptation Plan with the support of CCAFS. In Tanzania and Malawi, CCAFS has supported the first national implementation project of the UN Global Framework for Climate Services. CCAFS also played a part in the climate change adaptation strategy adopted by the Ethiopian government and has helped shape Nicaragua´s new national adaptation strategy, resulting in major investments for coffee and cocoa (US$ 24 million) as a direct result of CCAFS research.

Changing the face of research

CCAFS research helps shape global research agendas. For example, CCAFS work has fed into breeding strategies for beans, maize, rice, cassava and potatoes, in the search for climate-proof crops. Together with partners, including FAO, CARE, IFAD, We Effect and GROOTS, CCAFS is also re-orientating research to better focus on gender issues. For example, in 2013 the CCAFS-FAO gender and climate change manual for research was translated into French and Spanish and saw over 10,000 downloads. More generally, all CCAFS research is available online through open access platforms. These platforms are a vital tool, enhancing the reach and impact of the knowledge we produce and helping us to achieve development goals. In total, more than 60,000 unique users visited CCAFS' open-access databases in 2013. Some 135,000 files were downloaded from CCAFS-Climate alone.

In conclusion

CCAFS aspires to the three-thirds principle, one third to understanding the problem through engaging the users of research and identifying the needs, one third to doing the research and one-third to capacity strengthening and communication to make sure the research is translated into action. The decades of development research directed to “to whom it may concern” are over. Research needs to be closely integrated with capacity strengthening, partnership engagement and creative communications. We hope that the progress reported from 2013 reflects on these aspirations.